Congress

Senate takes aim at NASA airplanes

The Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee had scheduled a hearing this week on “NASA Passenger Aircraft: Mission Required or Expensive Perk?” However, at last report the hearing, which had been planned for Thursday, has been rescheduled for September 7, after Congress returns from the August recess.

22 comments to Senate takes aim at NASA airplanes

  • I guess that pretty much answers their question. . . .

    – Donald

  • Regarding foam from the ET, any bets that, after this, the Shuttle never flys again?

    – Donald

  • NEWSALERT: Wednesday, July 27, 2005 @ 1838 GMT
    —-
    The latest news from Spaceflight Now

    SHUTTLE FLEET GROUNDED AGAIN BY FALLING FOAM
    —-
    NASA’s shuttle program manager says the spaceship won’t fly again until the agency understands why a large section of foam peeled away from Discovery’s external fuel tank during yesterday’s launch. Discovery’s mission is the first shuttle flight since Columbia was lost in 2003 after being struck by falling foam.

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/

  • That’s a happy thought.

    But it could end up like missile defense: The tests fail, then they stop testing, but the money keeps flowing.

  • Cecil Trotter

    Kuperberg: “But it could end up like missile defense: The tests fail, then they stop testing, but the money keeps flowing.”

    Funny thing I just noticed. Google’d up some stories on the US Navy testing of the SM-3 missile and the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Weapon System. The only major news story I could find was a CBS story from 2003 reporting a test failure, in fact that was the first result google came up with.

    There was NOT ONE news story on the 5 successful tests since.

    Odd isn’t it? I’m sure there is no agenda behind those successful tests not being reported…..

  • Dfens

    First of all, foam has fallen off the external tank on every flight of every shuttle. Only once was it considered to be a potential cause of an a catastrophic accident, and I think it’s contribution in that case is questionable. Frankly, I cannot imagine why anyone would think 100% of the foam would ever stay on the ET given the environment.

    On the other hand, I have to applaud the way the new NASA managment is using this issue to kill off the shuttle program. Up till now, I hadn’t given them much credit for being politically savy.

  • Cecil,

    I was referring to the ground-based missile defense at Fort Greely in Alaska and at Vandenberg in California.

  • Paul Dietz

    Dfens: I’m amazed you consider the contribution of the foam to Columbia’s loss ‘questionable’. Do you think it’s just a coincidence that the foam hit at just the spot that the hot gas came in (which was independently localized by the information on the recovered engineering recorder)?

  • Cecil Trotter

    Kuperberg: “I was referring to the ground-based missile defense at Fort Greely in Alaska and at Vandenberg in California.”

    Oh I figured as much, another example of only focusing on the negative when making your case against ABM (or anything else for that matter). The Navy system is the front line and it has shown to work quite well, so I wouldn’t expect you or the media to mention that part of the ABM story. Of course you have every right to do that, but the “unbiased” media supposedly has the job of getting out the truth not just the story they want to portray. The ABM story is just one example, the media does the same thing on just about every other subject.

  • Cecil,

    No, the Naval system hasn’t been shown to work well. For the ground-based ABM tests, they set the bar very low, but the system tripped over it anyway. For the Naval Aegis system, they also set the bar low (for example by not bothering with decoys) and the system only tripped 1 time out of 6. Not that it really matters, because they are still funding both systems. As Taylor Dinerman explained it in the Space Review, missile defense is an unstoppable success — politically.

    It’s rather like the space shuttle (although that may be changing). “Success” is not when the space shuttle does anything useful, it’s when it flies according to plan. “Failure” is when it can’t even manage that. Fail or succeed, the program still gets its billions.

    And what is your take on it? That the reputations of these colossal government programs might suffer at the hands of privately owned newspapers. Which one spends your tax money, NASA or the New York Times? Which one has a bigger budget?

  • Dfens

    Paul, I know that carbon-carbon composites are very brittle, and, therefore, I cannot say foam by itself could not have broken it, but it seems more likely to me there was some ice involved in the collision. That appeared to be something they concentrated on with the new insulation was the prevention of ice accumulations.

    The air flow in between the orbiter, tank, and SRBs is extremely complex and nasty. It is likely there are all kinds of transient flows, resonance, shock waves, and vacuums at various times and places. Then there are the cryogenic temperatures to deal with. It is a poor aerodynamic design. The choice of materials for the leading edges was poor given the high probability of a debris strike on launch. Par for the course.

    The whole vehicle is a poor design. I think that if they deal with typical launch “anomalies” honestly, instead of always sweeping them under the rug, support for shuttle will dissipate quickly.

  • Dfens

    Greg, I really like that Space Review article. The sad thing about missile defense is that it should be relatively easy to hit a ballistic, non-maneuvering target. So far, most of the programs have made it look difficult, and successes have come after nearly a decade of work.

    Mostly I liked their description of the “iron triangle”. That’s what we need to get rid of. The contractor is always going to lobby for their program, and that’s fine. What we need to do is get NASA and the DoD out of that bed with them.

    The programs need to be stripped of the tremendous power they wield. They are killing us. They stifle innovation and suck money at a rate exponentially proportional to their size.

    We won’t be any better off if we’re stuck with the CEV. At best CEV should be an interim program with a follow on ramping up as it ramps down. The way things are now, CEV will take on a life of its own and kill off all other options for the next 20-30 years.

  • Cecil Trotter

    Kuperberg: “No, the Naval system hasn’t been shown to work well. For the ground-based ABM tests, they set the bar very low, but the system tripped over it anyway. For the Naval Aegis system, they also set the bar low (for example by not bothering with decoys) and the system only tripped 1 time out of 6.”

    You’re skipping around a bit so let me sort this out; I’ll start with the ground based system. I think we’ve already agreed that it has not as yet worked as well as we would like.

    Now you say, “the Naval system hasn’t been shown to work well” and site that it has failed only one of six tests as proof of that assertion. By most accounts 83% success is pretty good for a test program, and when you consider that the failure was in 2003 and that the root cause of the failure was identified and corrected that one failure carries less weight that it would if it were unexplained or more recent.

    As far as not using decoys, well I’m not sure what you expect. It is a developing program and decoy discrimination IS planned. For the time being this is a very good system, better than no system for sure, to deal with a low launch rate situation by a country like North Korea that doesn’t have any decoy capacity anyway.

    Kuperberg: “Not that it really matters, because they are still funding both systems. As Taylor Dinerman explained it in the Space Review, missile defense is an unstoppable success — politically.”

    A good thing too. I take it that your response to a failure in a program would be to just give up?

    Kuperberg: “And what is your take on it? That the reputations of these colossal government programs might suffer at the hands of privately owned newspapers. Which one spends your tax money, NASA or the New York Times? Which one has a bigger budget?”

    You must have a very low opinion of the power of the press. The NYT and any other national news media have the power to mold public opinion, and they know it. For many media outlets that has become their mission; not to report the news as it should be. My take is that the media should report the facts, ALL the facts and not just the ones that agree with their agenda.

  • “My take is that the media should report the facts, ALL the facts and not just the ones that agree with their agenda.”

    You mean like, say, Fox Television?

    – Donald

  • Paul Dietz

    Dfens: they know the mass of the object that hit the wing, since they know how big it was, hence its drag, and they know how fast it decelerated in the airstream. The mass is consistent with the object being composed only of foam. Certainly if any ice was present, there wasn’t very much.

  • Cecil Trotter

    Donald: “You mean like, say, Fox Television?”

    Fox has as good a grasp on facts vs bias as does CBS/CNN. Of course you’re not going to gore CBS/CNN’s ox since they are toing YOUR line.

  • Cecil, I’m going to stick to the space policy question. Incessant moaning about media bias is the bane of the Internet. (That and porn. But as mindless dreck goes, porn is the best!)

    Who told you that North Korea has no “decoy capacity”? What military has ever had trouble making decoys?

    And yeah, the government should never reward pathetic, inexcusable failure with guaranteed funding.

  • “Fox has as good a grasp on facts vs bias as does CBS/CNN. Of course you’re not going to gore CBS/CNN’s ox since they are toing YOUR line.”

    Actually, I don’t like either one. I don’t own a television. There is _always_ something better to do and / or a better source of information, especially in this Internet-enabled world.

    That said, when I was in a situation when Fox was on display, I was appalled by the naked jingoism on display. If that is “unbiased” news, then yes I want nothing to do with it.

    – Donald

  • Cecil Trotter

    Kuperberg: “I’m going to stick to the space policy question.”

    So why did you insert ABM into the discussion in the first place?

    Never mind…

  • Cecil Trotter

    Donald: “I don’t own a television.”

    But you can say without a doubt Fox News is biased?

    Donald: “That said, when I was in a situation when Fox was on display, I was appalled by the naked jingoism on display.”

    Ahhhh.. so the opinion is based on what, 30 minutes of viewing? A few hours maybe? What program did you see, a “talk show” type hosted by an admitted conservative? That would be Foxs’ conservative version of a Larry King. Liberals think a conservative talk show format is “jingoism” whereas a liberal version is journalism.

    On the other hand I watched ABC, CBS and NBC news broadcasts for 20 years before I gave them up as hopeless.

  • Not twenty years, but I worked for a company that had Fox on the televisions in the lunch room. I saw _more_ than enough. . . .

    – Donald

  • Jeff Foust

    Since the comments here long ago diverged from the topic of the post, I am closing comments. I do not have the budget or other resources to support a general space/media/missile defense discussion blog. There are plenty of alternative arenas better suited for such discussions. Your anticipated cooperation is greatly appreciated.